Break clause in NHS-owned GP premises lease deal hailed by BMA

GPs in NHS-owned premises will no longer face financial ruin if they lose their practice contract under the terms of a new lease negotiated by the BMA, NHS England and NHS Property Services.

GPC premises lead Dr Brian Balmer
GPC premises lead Dr Brian Balmer

Practices will be able to break their lease if they lose their core NHS contract under the deal unveiled on Wednesday, in a move that prevents GPs being left to pay off leases with decades left to run if their practices closes.

The deal also guarantees that practices whose rents are revised are entitled to equivalent reimbursement, cuts out a clause in previous lease agreements that allowed NHS Property Services to relocate practices and sets out agreed dispute resolution procedures.

It also secures 'increased transparency for service charges', and offers transitional support for the scores of practices facing up to six-figure hikes in service charge fees - providing they sign the new deal before November 2017.

GP premises

Around 11% of GP practices in England operate from premises owned by NHS Property Services, which runs NHS estates. GPonline reported last week that LMCs fear huge hikes in service charges set to be imposed on many of these practices could force them out of business.

GPC negotiator and premises lead Dr Brian Balmer admitted the deal was 'not a magic bullet to every problem that arises with GP premises'.

But he said: 'This is the first agreed template lease between NHS Property Services and the BMA. It has been produced after considerable negotiation and we believe it allows practices to sign up to individual leases with the confidence that they are entering into a fair and modern relationship with the landlord.'

Dr Balmer warned that the government still needed to 'deliver on their planned investment in GP infrastructure'.

He added: 'This new agreement is a significant step forward and presents an opportunity that I would urge GP practices to seriously consider, especially as some of the benefits of this agreement are only available for a specific period of time.'

GP funding

John Westwood, director of asset management at NHS Property Services said: 'Although this formal approach is very different from what many of our GP occupiers have known in the past, we have found broad agreement on the principle of establishing rights and responsibilities through leases.

'GPs want to be sure that they have the facilities to provide contracted services. This is a major advance and we are grateful to the BMA for their contribution. Many of the properties we inherited from PCTs and strategic health authorities had been occupied on a casual basis.

'This documentation will ensure that we and our occupiers have the same understanding of the space they occupy – including access, shared and common areas. It provides a platform for planning future needs, so that we can help tenants manage space better, deliver services in a different way or identify extra services that might be needed.'

Practices that agree the new deal before November 2017 will also be entitled to reimbursement of stamp duty land tax liability and reasonable legal costs, any additional sums payable on top of the rent where the landlord elects to charge VAT and continuing reimbursements during any period between a contractor serving notice to break a lease (or them receiving such a notice) and the date that the lease finally ends, according to the BMA.

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